Adam Taylor/ABC
Samantha Highfill
September 25, 2014 AT 07:54 PM EDT

Welcome back to the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, where the whirlwind that was Cristina Yang has been replaced with, well, a literal whirlwind. And despite the fact that the strong gust of wind doesn’t have Yang’s sharp wit, or even her dance moves, it does manage to keep things moving at such a rapid pace that it’s hard to notice the huge gaping hole in the middle of the series. Then again, if any show should know how to repair a wound of this size, it would be one about (sexy) doctors.

But seriously, between the constant references to Yang—no matter how painful they were—and the show’s choice not to dwell on her exit, which apparently happened yesterday, it felt like business as usual, only slightly less dark and twisty. Grey’s has always been at its best when put in heightened situations—there’s a bomb in a body cavity! there’s a shooter in the hospital!—but that simply cannot be done on a weekly basis. Instead, a good hour in Seattle is one filled with family drama, likable patients whose physical ailments relate to the emotional ailments of our favorite doctors, and at least one trip to Joe’s. And if that’s the criteria, then this season opener met it.

We start with a flashback to the day that Ellis lost a 5-year-old Meredith in a park. One minute, Meredith is on the carousel, and the next, she is standing next to her mother as she cries out Richard’s name. It’s a flashback we’ve actually seen bits and pieces of in the past, the day that Richard left Ellis for good. But what we come to find out this time around is that it’s also the day that Ellis gave birth to who we now know is Maggie Pierce. Well, that’s assuming that there isn’t another Ellis lovechild out there.

In the flashback, we hear Ellis say she doesn’t want to hold the crying child before we cut to Meredith being rushed out of her home. It seems the memory wasn’t already eventful enough, so it also happens to be the moment in which Ellis leaves Thatcher. We watch as young Meredith says goodbye to her father, but more importantly to her doll. No offense, Thatcher. Hey, remember Thatcher?

Back in present day, Meredith is at her old house—an image that is so reminiscent of the good ol’ days it could make any Grey’s lover tear up. Before we can blink, she’s at the foot of Alex and Jo’s bed. Not surprisingly, Karev hasn’t changed his locks yet, a fact Meredith brings up before kicking Jo out of bed. Just like that, Jo and her boobs are out, and Meredith and her sweats are in. Cue the “I’m not moving to D.C.” speech between Meredith and her new, potentially even grumpier, Cristina.

But getting woken up by Meredith is only the beginning for Karev, who arrives at work to realize that Bailey wants the board seat that Cristina left to him. And in a moment that perfectly sums up how times have changed, Alex is willing to go toe-to-toe with the Nazi. This from the guy who was once too scared to perform heart surgery in an elevator. (Go George!)

NEXT: Meredith finds a new “person”

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